Letting off Steam: Interim Constitutions as a Safety Valve to the Pressure-Cooker of Transitions in Conflict-Affected States?

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Abstract: Recent years have seen considerably more attention being given to constitution-making as a field of deliberate study and practice, particularly with regards to the challenges and opportunities posed by constitution-making in conflict-affected states. A consequence of this work has been a more explicit recognition of the interconnectedness of peace processes and constitutional processes as mechanisms of political settlement. Within this context, this article argues for the more deliberate use of interim constitutions as a peacebuilding mechanism with potential to be effective in highly divided contexts in grounding a more inclusive and sustainable political settlement. This article argues that while interim constitutions are indeed commonly found in conflict-affected contexts, their use appears ad hoc and their design poorly conceived. The article reflects upon the potential strengths and weaknesses offered by interim constitutions in fragile and conflict-affected states. Reflecting on both the existing scholarship and the author’s own practical field experience, the article concludes that if a more modest and realistic approach to what constitution-making can achieve in fragile and conflict-affected states is coupled with more attention to design, interim constitutions can provide space and time to undertake more comprehensive discussions regarding the longer-term settlements.

Based on a 2016 research paper:

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Keywords: Peace Processes; Interim Constitution, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict Constitution-Making

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